Thursday, October 9, 2008

No wonder we're in such a mess, pt 1

This morning, while eating my Raisin Bran and scanning the front page of the Washington Post, I encountered an article titled "Make or Break Holiday Season Looms Large". Above the fold, in the third paragraph, someone named Bob Carbonell, chief credit officer for Bernard Sands, a retail rating and credit services agency, said:

"If the American housewife puts the money under the mattress, we're in deep trouble."

Are you kidding -- who ARE these people? This quote is offensive in so many ways, it's difficult to get them all down.

First, what is a housewife? Who uses a term like that in 2008? I know many women who do not work for pay outside the home, but few would qualify for -- and virtually all would object to -- this particular moniker. By the way, the thrust of this statement assumes that there are millions upon millions of such persons. For many families, of course, there is no option; if you're going to make the mortgage, keep the kids fed and dressed, and maybe get to the beach for a week this summer, you're going to need two incomes.

Second, the statement implies that the housewife controls the pursestrings (presumably while hubby is hunting and gathering, and just before popping in the cookies for Junior's return from school), that discretionary spending is something for housewives, and that spouses do not or should not have meaningful discussions about how much to spend and on what.

Third, Bob Carbonell strongly implies that if left to her own devices, the garden-variety housewife might just do something ditzy like stuff it all under the mattress (probably while making the bed). The American housewife clearly must not be intelligent enough to make her own decisions about the best use of her money. What is she thinking? Obviously a trip to the mall -- pillowcase in hand -- is exactly what's needed.

Finally, there's a strong sense that saving is bad, spending is good, and spending that you can't afford now but can perhaps afford in the future is even better. Bob Carbonell is a credit officer of some sort for a company I've never heard of, but I'm willing to bet that a good part of his livelihood comes from people living on credit. No wonder we're in such a mess.

No comments: